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Ethics – Abortion in Northern Ireland

August 2017

In June 2017, all three judges in Belfast’s Court of Appeal ruled that Northern Ireland’s (NI) current abortion law was not incompatible with human rights. NI’s laws on abortion are stricter than those in England and Wales.

This came as a result of pro-choice campaigners, riding on the coat-tails of popular opinion, given the political wrangling over Theresa May’s £1bn deal with the anti-abortion Democratic Unionist Party, seeking to overturn Northern Ireland’s abortion laws on the basis of human rights.

Mark Baillie, Northern Ireland policy officer for charity CARE, said, ‘We are pleased that all three judges ruled that Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion are indeed compatible with human rights.

‘CARE also welcomes that the Court of Appeal has strongly indicated abortion is a matter for the Northern Ireland legislature to decide. Our laws on abortion must always be framed in a way that provides the best possible outcome for both the mother and the unborn child. We cannot ignore one to the detriment of the other’.

In response, UK MP Justine Greening, minister for Women and Equalities in Westminster, decided to pay for the abortions of Northern Irish women travelling to England for abortions.

A statement from pro-life group Right To Life condemned her decision as anti-democratic. It said, ‘The Minister for Equalities has run roughshod over democracy and the constitutional competencies of Northern Ireland and its Assembly, by imposing a policy that directly interferes with the intended effects of their laws.

‘By making this decision, Greening and the UK government have contradicted the courts, over-ridden the Northern Irish Assembly and people, abandoned their traditional neutrality, and, even worse, violated true equality and human rights by committing themselves to increasing the number of unborn babies killed by abortion in Northern Ireland’.